Nothing seems simpler. Champagne producers employ two of the world’s most popular grapes for producing table wines – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – as the basis for their sparkling wine cuvées. So why not make some still wine on the side? Very few do as a side project, though they must be labeled “Côteaux Champenoise.” But most producers don’t, even though similar Chards and Pinots from Burgundy sell for as much as Champagne’s bubby.
Californians, however, think differently and make both, perhaps because California bubblies generally sell for less than do their varietal Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. California’s revered sparkling producer, Schramsberg, makes Pinot and Chard under their Davies label, and those sparkling wine producers in Napa Valley owned by Champagne producers – Domaine Chandon, Domaine Carneros, and Mumm Napa – also make both.
Ten years ago, the owners of Roederer Estate, located farther north and farther coastal in Mendocino County, decided to start a separate still wine facility with its own vineyards. They called it Domaine Anderson after the valley where it was located. We have one of their Pinots Noirs – no bubbles – in this 12.
(What are the French thinking?)
2021 Neal Family Napa Valley Vermentino ($38). After an early rush of juicy apples on the palate, the flavors revert to neutral.
2018 Flora Springs “Soliloquy” Napa Valley White Wine ($50). An ideal aperitif – a grassy, weedy Sauvignon with lovely herbal aromas and a touch of lemon in the finish.
2018 Primus Apalta Carmenère ($18). A mellow blend of ripe blackberries and mature oak, with firm tannins in the finish.
2018 Primus Maipo Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($18). A satisfying wine with full-bodied purple fruit, good oak treatment, and some prickly notes in the finish.
2018 Primus “The Blend” Apalta Red Wine ($18). This Cabernet-led blend is sort of a moody and brooding blend, but an enjoyable one, with some green notes and barrel flavors.
2020 Chronic Cellars “Sofa King Bueno” Paso Robles Red Wine ($23). This Syrah-led blend is fruity sweet with cherries, vanilla, and a slightly tart finish.
2020 Baileyana “Firepeak” Edna Valley Pinot Noir ($25). A full-fruit Pinot though not a heavy one, with lingering cherry and raspberry flavors and a fairly lean finish.
2021 Thacher “Shell Creek” Paso Robles Validiquié Nouveau ($28). Lean, tart, flavorful berry flavors fall between a light red and a big rosé with that “unfinished” taste that nouveaux often have.
2021 Alta Collina Paso Robles Grenache ($42). This quaffing-style, somewhat fruity sweet red has jammy strawberry tastes and a tannic bite.
2017 Domaine Anderson Mendocino Pinot Noir ($42). Very enjoyable with fruity – but not quite fruit forward – black raspberry and cherry tastes with excellent structure and a slightly tangy finish.
2021 Neal Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55). An enjoyable Cab with warm but tart blackberry, black raspberry, and earthy flavors, with integrated barrel notes and granular tannins.
2021 Neal Family Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($110). Classic style – moderate structure with very Bordeaux-like concentrated dark fruits with earthly, savory notes of earthiness and well-integrated tannins.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Feature photo courtesy of Roederer estate.